State of the Website: February 2015

This is the first in a series of monthly reports that provide an overview of how the library’s main website (including subdomains) and mobile website are being used. Usage statistics are tracked using Google Analytics. Without further ado, here are the stats for February 2015.

The Big Picture

The most challenging problem in web analytics is the inability to gain actionable insights from the overwhelming amount of data collected. We can’t see the forest for the trees. One solution is to start with the big picture before diving into more detailed information.

How many visitors are coming to the library website?

Audience Overview
Sessions (visits) 104,528
Users (unique visitors) 64,047
Busiest day of the week Monday (21,851 visits)
Busiest hour of the day 1:00 pm (9,515 visits)

Source: Google Analytics data for Audience Overview
Date range: February 1-28, 2015

What’s the difference between a session and a user? Time for an analogy. A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. Okay, maybe not. How about this. A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a library. Wait … this isn’t working.

Before I put my foot firmly in my mouth (and I have big feet), let me simply say that a user, like the priest or rabbi or minister in my failed analogy, is an individual person who opens a browser and clicks to our website. Think of this metric as a virtual gate count of people entering the library’s website.

A session begins the moment a user clicks to our website and lasts until that user leaves. This metric is analogous to the time actually spent in the library. The session includes all the actions (page views or events) taken by a user.

Now that we have cleared that up, let’s move right along.


Where are visitors coming from?

Top Ten Referrals Sessions (Visits) 8,171
AsULearn 2,347
Appalnet 1,986
Appstate Search 1,944
WNCLN 1,453
MyASU 689 71 67
Multicultural Student Development 54 50

Source: Google Analytics data for All Traffic: Referrals
Date range: February 1-28, 2015

In case you’re wondering from the table above, is a website where you can make your own “startpage” to hold all your favorite links in one place. I haven’t used it personally, but if you visit, tell them I sent (or referred) you. 😉



Top Five Referring Search Engines Sessions (Visits)
Google 22,407
Bing 1,258
Yahoo 1,194
Ask 49
AOL 34

Source: Google Analytics data for All Traffic: Source/Medium
Date range: February 1-28, 2015

The one thing that stands out in the table above is that the numbers show Google is taking over the world. Be afraid. Be very afraid.



Top Ten Referring Keywords (non-branded) Sessions (Visits)
latin america 76
artemis literary sources 22
belk library first floor 19
app state library hours 16
music library app state 10
belk library hours 9
eastern europe map 9
strip mining in appalachia 9
west africa 8
appstate room reservation 7

Source: Google Analytics data for All Traffic: Source/Medium (Keyword)
Date range: February 1-28, 2015

It isn’t difficult to understand why the top search term in February was “latin america.” With all the cold and snow we’ve had, that’s one place I would want to go to escape the winter blues.

Seriously though, we can use this information to infer visitor intent (i.e. why visitors come to our website and what they might be looking for).


Visitor Profile

Now that we’ve looked at the big picture, here is a little more detailed information about the 64,047 unique visitors who used the library website in February.*


Chrome (blue) is the clear winner in this browser war with 42.76 percent of users. Eat your heart out IE.

Browser usage statistics for February 2015

Distribution of top five browsers used to view the library’s website during February 2015

Source: Google Analytics data for Audience Technology: Browser
Date range: February 1-28, 2015


Here is where most of our visitors came from by geographic location (country, state, and city):

  • United States (98.21%)
  • North Carolina (91.92%)
  • Boone (91.76%)

I can hear the chanting now (USA! USA! USA!). Okay, enough already. Let’s be a good sport.

While most visits originate from within the United States, the library website was visited 1,867 times from 122 foreign countries in February.

Source: Google Analytics data for Audience Geo Location
Date range: February 1-28, 2015

*Please note that we do not collect any personally identifiable information (PII) of visitors to our websites. The data we collect is based on referrers, page URLs, and first-party cookies. This data is completely anonymous and is used solely for the purpose of helping us improve the library website experience. Now, take a deep breath and relax.


Content Consumption

Eating content? Yummy! This is enough to get any web geek salivating. What we really want is for visitors to sink their teeth into juicy pieces of content and leave our website with a feeling of satisfaction and not indigestion or an overwhelming desire to puke.

Metaphor aside, we can look at the most used or popular web pages on the library’s website, but these data do not tell us the quality of the web pages viewed. Looking at the numbers below, however, we can get an idea of where we need to concentrate our efforts. (I’m feeling hungry all of a sudden. Note to self: Take an early lunch break today.)

Top Ten Entry Pages Sessions (Visits)
Library home page 77,381
Article Databases 1,661
Library Guides 1,018
Group Study Rooms 766
Music Library home page 739
IMC Bibliographies (Genres) 460
Library Hours 382
Special Collections home page 269
Digital Collections home page 209
How to Evaluate Journal Articles 203

Source: Google Analytics data for Behavior: Site Content – Landing Pages
Date range: February 1-28, 2015

Not surprisingly, the top landing page on our website is the library home page. However, look past the home page in the table above to infer visitor intent.



Top Ten Viewed Pages Page Views
Library home page 114,934
Article Databases 15,028
Library Guides 2,614
Rooms and Spaces 2,081
Library Hours 1,920
Site Search 1,717
Find 1,488
Group Study Rooms 1,483
Music Library home page 1,461
Databases by Title – A 1,356

Source: Google Analytics data for Behavior: Site Content – All Pages
Date range: February 1-28, 2015



Mobile Website Usage

The library also maintains a separate version of the website designed for mobile devices. Below are some statistics on its usage.

Number of Visitors

Audience Overview – Mobile Website
Sessions (visits) 3,892
Users (unique visitors) 2,633
Busiest day of the week Tuesday (680 visits)
Busiest hour of the day 1:00 pm (299 visits)

Source: Google Analytics data for Audience Overview
Date range: February 1-28, 2015


Mobile Device

As the chart below shows, most visitors to our mobile website are using the Apple iPhone (2,749 visits or 71.07 percent). Thank you Steve Jobs (may he rest in peace).

Mobile device usage statistics for February 2015

Distribution of top ten devices used to access the library’s mobile website in February 2015


Top Mobile Pages

Top Ten Viewed Pages Page Views
Mobile Library home page 5,935
News/Information 842
Research 660
Library Hours 575
Cool Tools 259
Contact Us 234
Library News 175
Article Databases 147
Useful Phone Numbers 125
Directory 81

What does this tell us about the mobile website? I’ll leave that final thought to you, dear reader.

BTW: Can you guess what ringtone I use on my cell phone? “It’s A Small World After All.” I kid you not.


What the Web Team Is Doing

The web team in Belk Library’s Technology Services is in the beginning stages of redesigning the library website. Our goal is to create a site that will meet the needs of our users. To that end, the Web Librarian recently completed a survey of library personnel to get some feedback on how we can improve the library website. Later, he will send out a survey to students on campus to get their perspective on our web presence.

As we move forward with the redesign, we want to adopt a data-driven approach to making web decisions. That means using data and analysis, rather than opinions, to drive action on the library website.

With this in mind, it is important to understand that we interpret the word “data” broadly. To make truly informed decisions, web analytics must include both quantitative data (numbers) to answer the “what” and qualitative data (e.g. surveys and usability testing) to answer the “why.” The emphasis should be on the latter and includes feedback from users like you.

If you have any ideas about how we can improve the user experience on the library website, please let us know in the comments below.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was inspired by the web team of the Albert S. Cook Library at Towson University in Maryland. They started a blog (now defunct) as a way to involve users in their website redesign process and to share usage statistics on how the new website performed.


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